Los Angeles, CA — Around 30,000 Los Angeles Unified School District workers — consisting of staff such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and special education assistants — are currently voting to strike. The vote began on Jan. 23 and will conclude on Friday. Since April 2021, LAUSD employees have been pushing for more equitable wage increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment as a result of greater attention and increased staffing levels.
Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 have been negotiating with the school district, but haven’t reached an agreement. The district has so far only offered a 5% pay wage increase. And the SEIU Local 99 reported the average salary for LAUSD school workers is $25,000 a year, which is nowhere near the average cost of living in California.
If the majority of the union votes in favor to strike, this would be the first one within the school district since the United Teachers Los Angeles strike in 2019.
I was in eighth grade during the 2019 UTLA strike. Back then, I had little understanding of the situation or how the teachers were barely being paid living wages. I was just excited to get a week off and play some games. But then, my friend brought me to the picket lines. Standing side by side with our teachers, we demanded for them to receive equitable wages and smaller class sizes for their classrooms.
As an LAUSD student, I thought that after the 2019 UTLA strike, schools would be safer and better equipped. I was wrong. Today, I walked into my school's restroom, and it was littered with graffiti.
I have a lot of respect for the staff at my school, but I feel like many of my peers do not. Cafeteria workers make food day in and out for nearly 2,000 kids at my school. And yet, they are rarely thanked or acknowledge their hard work.
And it’s not just the cafeteria workers.There are many trash cans placed in key spots around campus. But I see many people leave their trash on the ground for custodial staff to clean instead of properly throwing it away. It just feels like people are almost intentionally making staff's jobs much harder.
While a lot of my peers appreciate our teachers, I feel they often fail to treat the staff around campus with that same respect. It not only makes me sad seeing my classmates' disrespect for the hardworking staff at school, but I’m also ashamed. We’re teenagers, and so we’re prone to making mistakes. But we’re grown enough to know how to treat others correctly.
Because I’m a graduating high school senior, I lost hope we would ever get a chance again during my time at LAUSD to change this. However, I’m hopeful there may be change on the horizon.
After the teachers won in 2019, I learned that unions really work. They speak for themselves when no one else wants to. And that's what strikes me as powerful.
If the LAUSD school workers decide to head to the picket lines, I would support it fully. To me, school workers are just as important as teachers or administrators. Each cog in a machine is important. No matter the size, without one part, everything would stop functioning.
If these staff aren't receiving the proper pay raise and employment rates, a strike will be crucial. It would serve as a reminder to the district that without the people on the front lines, no campus can function.
If the votes are in favor of striking, schools will likely either have to shut down for the strike duration or have reduced learning capacities. The last time I stood with LAUSD staff I was not fully informed, but now I am. I see how important it is to stand at the picket lines with these amazing and hardworking staff if they do strike.